At that time, I would not have realized it yet, but the ILC presentation would open many doors for me.
My journey with ILC after the presentation began before my interview and – surprising, even to this day – subsequence acceptance for the Chicago program. Back around December or so of last year, I still had my heart and goal set on getting into the Vanderbilt program, strongly attracted by the Medical 101 course. I wrote the pre-essays and main essay, submitting just a matter of minutes before the deadline. Even though I put in effort into those essays, it still came as a somewhat of a surprise to both me and my parents when I made it to the interviews.
I pretty much entered into that competition the worst way possible – I knew what I wanted, and I worked to try to obtain it, but in reality, I lacked much of the motivation and ambition to see my desire into reality. Obviously, I did not make it into the Vanderbilt program, but I did leave that night with a few new friends and new experiences. Thus, for a while, I was content to put ILC in the back of my mind, and in the corners of my mind it stayed – until the email for the Chicago program came around a month later.
|I'm so glad I met everyone!|
Now, it would make a very nice story to say I learned from my mistakes and flaws from my first time applying to ILC and channeled my determination to improve into my second applying, which was to the Chicago program. However, that was not the case. I was much more uncertain the second time around about whether I even wanted to apply. What had attracted me so much to Vanderbilt that first time had been its medical course, and the offerings listed at Chicago made me hesitate. Luckily, at the gentle nudging of my parents, I applied again and made it to the interviews once more.
I remember arriving at ECHS for the second time, only to find that all the interviewees were much more intense than what I had experienced that first interview for Vanderbilt. Unlike last time, I didn’t find anyone I just clicked with. I remember looking around the room and feeling the seriousness of the competitive atmosphere, everyone’s anxiety and jitteriness. I questioned my right to be there. Somehow, during the interview, I managed to stutter out worse responses (at least, in my opinion) than I had at the Vanderbilt interview. I braced myself for the worst.
It was a shock for me when I heard Don announce my name as part of the 2017 Chicago cohort. I was completely stunned and floored; I was about to head back home after congratulating whoever got selected this time. My parents were so happy for me when they found out, and I was, too. But I think a part of me still didn’t believe in myself completely. The following months, the ILC school board meeting and dinner with alumni happened – and I shrunk away from experiences such as the short speeches that other members gave. I talked to people during ILC events, but I knew I could have made more effort to socialize and communicate more with other people.
I didn’t really break out of my shell until after I arrived at UChicago, and I realized that unless I wanted to live my life as a hermit in my dorm the whole three weeks, which some may argue I still did, I had to go talk to people and make friends. I didn’t have room to feel intimidated or to doubt myself. Even if I had to pretend confidence in the beginning, that confidence eventually become real, and I could strike up small conversations with random people everywhere (the dining hall staff is really nice, btw. I loved all of them).
During my time Chicago, I met a lot and all kinds of people. There were people I liked (my class was awesome!), and people I didn’t like. There were people whose values and choices I didn’t agree with, but it’s also thanks to meeting those people that I found my own identity. Where I once went with the flow – letting go small differences in principles because they weren’t worth it to fuss about, doing it so often that my own feelings become subdued – I was forced to abandon that way of living in Chicago because it was no longer a matter of subtle differences in values that existed between me and the people I met.
|Memories with friends|
I was faced with people who were very different from myself, but difference is not always good (though it could be, and I met many wonderful, different people in Chicago). I realized I needed to start drawing lines, defining my own boundaries, so I know where I stand and for what I stand, after being passive and indifferent for so long.
Finally, during the past three weeks, I was reminded again how picky I am with choosing who to befriend, but I also learned the friendships I do form are strong, healthy, and supportive. I don’t – can’t – make friends left and right, but the friends I’m willing to make are ones I’m willing to make an effort to keep for a long time, and that’s fine by me, even if I don’t have the most friends.
So, thank you to Don, who made everything possible and never gave up on us even while irritated at us. Thank you to Ms. Sciacca, who leaves the sweetest comments on our blogs and is the best chaperone ever. Thank you to my cohort, the only pieces of “home” I had back at Chicago. Thank you to my parents, who supported me and suffered through my innumerable calls home. Thank you to my friends, one in particular <3, back home, who eased my transition and homesickness when I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. Thank you to Ms. Kronenberg. Thank you to UChicago. And a thousand more thank yous to the panelists, the school board, and everyone else who made this experience possible for me.
I have grown much as a person during those three weeks, and none of this would have been possible without everyone at my side.